1996 FZJ80 Pan-American Build

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Dec 1, 2004
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The Woodlands, Texas
It's kind of a strange way to start out a build thread but I'm going to start out by giving credit to the often maligned Previous Owner. I saw Nate's beautiful 1996 FZJ80 on here and was blown away by the attention to detail reflected in the listing. Here's the original post.

Here's a pic of the rig before she was mine.

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Joined
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The Woodlands, Texas
I had been looking for a late model 80-series for a while but it hadn't worked out. This rig had several features that appealed to me. The lift, long range fuel tank and armor in particular. The bed platform, fridge and water tank were all really well thought out but I realized early on that I'd need to make changes to fit my needs.

After some back and forth with Nate answering all my questions and getting it looked at at the local Toyota dealership we came to a fair price and I flew up to Boise to meet him at the airport.

The rig was as-good or better in person and I didn't hesitate to get in it and drive it home to Texas. In keeping with its lineage and pedigree, I stopped on the way home at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum. Dan came outside and checked it out and told me I'd gotten a good deal on it so that made my day.

I left there and went by Cruiser Outfitters to pick up a front axle rebuild kit and then stopped at a pick and pull lot south of SLC that had several late model 80-series there. I picked up a missing cover for the tool and jack area and headed south to Colorado where I had a dual battery setup and washer bottle relocation kit waiting for me at Slee.

Here it is in my driveway after I got it home.

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Joined
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Since the vehicle had been pretty much baselined prior to my purchasing it I had the luxury of not really needing to do anything to it immediately.

Early on in my planning for an overland vehicle I had decided that it would need to have a bed platform in the back that could fit two people. The existing platform had been built around a full sized ARB refrigerator and so a large portion of the rear area was taken up by that. I really wanted a refrigerator but there just wasn't going to be a way to make the ARB work for my needs. The rig had come with a nice ARB awning as well but I had planned on a 270 degree awning so I sold them both to satisfied customers.

Searching around on the internet for overland content I came across a Dometic drawer refrigerator that was substantially shorter than the top loading vehicle-based options. By putting the refrigerator under the platform I could use the entire rear area as a sleeping platform. There wasnt really a viable way to adapt the existing platform to the Dometic so I listed it as well.

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The motivation behind the purchase of the Land Cruiser (and the first of many justifications) was the need for reliable offroad transportation on an upcoming trip to South America. I've travelled a lot and have been fortunate enough to check off some memorable bucket list trips. The last remaining dream destination for me is Patagonia. At 55, the window is closing on some of the more strenuous activities I'd like to do on the trip so I resolved to make it happen. I have a good friend in Ecuador so I had initially thought that I would fly there, buy a suitable vehicle, and head south. He has a sweet Land Cruiser turbodiesel troopy that I thought would be perfect so I planned to find something comparable. Unfortunately, import taxes and other restrictions make it way too expensive and a huge PITA to buy there.

No problem I thought, I live in Houston, one of the largest container ports in the world. I can buy a Land Cruiser here and ship it in a container across to South America. Since my friend is in Guayaquil, I had initially planned to ship the vehicle there. The latest plan is to ship it to Cartagena Colombia instead. It's closer and avoids the Panama Canal.

I'm taking my 19 year old son on the trip with me. He's crazy about fishing so we're going to build the trip around some world class fishing along the route. Trout and Salmon in Patagonia and Golden Dorado and Peacock Bass in Brasil.

My initial wish list for the rig was a bed platform that could accommodate two of us somewhat comfortably, a refrigerator, armor and a winch, updated stereo and alarm, dual battery capability, a decent roof rack for storage, a kitchen with a reliable propane stove, and shelter in the form of an awning.

Mechanically, the rig was fine. It had been well maintained and lots of key things had been dealt with including rear heater delete, PHH bypass, pin-7 mod, alternator upgrade. The big unknown for a rig that had just rolled 200,000 miles on the drive home was the head gasket. Every indication was that it was fine. No overheating issues or smoke, really good oil analysis results. That being said, it was a clear case of could last another 100,000 miles or could go out in the next 100. A HG failure down in South America would be a huge pain in the ass, possibly catastrophic for the trip. By going ahead and replacing it and all of the other "while you're in there" stuff I could virtually guarantee that the rig would be solid for the trip.

With borders closing due to Covid and quarantines and travel restrictions galore, we had plenty of time to get it all done. Our 2021 departure date pushed out a year to late 2022 which has really helped with all of the parts and vendor delays.

First order of business was getting the factory roof rack off and getting something more capable up there.
 
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I decided to go with the Bowfin roof rack. It's got a low profile and IMHO it has a better attachment system than the similar Prinsu. I like the versatility of the 8020 style crossbars. The previous owner had already cleaned up the factory roof so the inevitable rust where the rivnuts were wasn't bad at all. Wit's End was out of roof rack deletion kits but I found some similar bolts and UV stable washers at McMaster- Carr and installed them with liberal amounts of silicone. Once they had dried I masked off the area around the bolts and sprayed them with Flexseal white rubberized paint. It formed a nice waterproof seal over the entire area.

Next up was stripping out the interior for some deep cleaning and the addition of some thermal and sound insulation. I went with the Second Skin Spectrum and sprayed two coats on the ceiling, floor, and inside the doors and quarter panels. I feel like it reduced the road noise quite a bit. I went over the transmission tunnel and the area over the exhaust and cats with their spray on thermal insulation for good measure. While I had the carpet out I removed all of the factory padding and replaced it with better padding. The area over the cats and exhaust got some specialized thermal insulation padding. It's quite a bit cooler on the passenger floorboard with the upgraded insulation. I sealed up the rivnuts from the inside while the headliner was out and installed hydrophobic melamine foam insulation on the roof interior.

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Looking forward to following your build thread. I've got two older girls (10 and 14) and had a son a couple of years ago at age 40. I'm dreaming about a big trip like this when he turns 18 and I have more time for extended travel.
I figure this is the last chance to install some real world experience in him before I send him off into the world.
 
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The rig came with a 4x4Labs dual swing out bumper. The previous owner had a custom mount fitted on the passenger side to carry a chainsaw and a propane hot shower can that I had no use for so I left it with him. My real need for the passenger side mount was for water and fuel storage so I took advantage of a group buy and ordered a 3 jerry can holder. I had them include an extra long riser so that I could mount a propane tank under the jerry cans. Bought it as a kit and had a fabricator here in Houston fab it up.

It holds a jerry can for gasoline, one for water, and another water can that is also a high quality water filter. Below it is my 11lb propane tank.

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Next up was a top end rebuild for the engine to replace the head gasket. I had a few people tell me that it made no sense to replace a HG that was showing no signs of imminent failure but given my need for reliability on the trip down south and the opportunity to do a bunch of other "while you're in there" stuff while doing the HG, I decided to go ahead with it. I went ahead and had them pull the engine to do the job so that we could more easily replace a few things. Now the rig is sporting a bunch of new gaskets and hoses, along with new motor mounts, new radiator and fan clutch, new thermostat and water pump, new timing chain and rebuilt injectors. Also used the opportunity to inspect and re-wrap the wiring harness where it was close to the EGR system and to instal the HuddExpo EGR delete "test plug". Pretty much every major mechanical system has now been baselined. The only major mechanical work that I want to do before the trip is to rebuild the axles.

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Joined
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Another big item on the agenda was to increase the storage capacity of the rig. This included putting in a tailgate storage lid and installing MOLLE panels over the rear windows. The MOLLE panels give me a lot of flexibility when it comes to storage and they also gave me a place to mount some better speakers in the rig. The original 2" speakers in the rear were laughably inadequate.

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What brand or model are the tailgate storage latches? I'm intending to do the same project.
Mine are from a South African manufacturer named Rugged Bound. There are several similar varieties available. I went with this one because it has a divider in the middle that gives it extra strength and rigidity.
 
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Pretty early on in my build I decided that having some sort of hot shower capability would be a worthwhile addition. There are lots of different approaches to the problem and I spent a lot of time considering the options. I was initially interested in the simplicity of a rack mounted solar shower that used air from a bicycle pump to pressurize the shower. I figured that I could make it from PVC and paint it black and then tap it for the Schrader valve. The reliance on clear, sunny days with moderate temperatures made that solution too limited. I toyed with the idea of using a sous vide immersion heater to heat the water but it took too much juice to power a high wattage heat source.

Then I saw the video for the Australian Joolca hot shower system. It was so well thought out and cleverly engineered that I immediately started trying to figure out how to incorporate it into rig. The two drawbacks that soon became apparent where the size of the water heater and the fact that it would require propane as its fuel. Under normal circumstances propane would be the perfect solution to the problem but I plan to rely on propane for my stove so I can't afford to be burning it for both cooking and hot water. Fortunately, I saw a video walkthrough of @ofer bruhis rig and everything started to fall in place. His use of a heat exchanger tied into the heating system was beyond brilliant. If you haven't seen his build threads - definitely check them out. The previous owner had deleted the rear heater so it was a simple matter to tap into the coolant loop. Now I had a heat source using fuel that I was going to be burning anyway.

Next problem to be solved was the water tank. My spare tire now resides on the rear bumper so I had space under the rear of the vehicle. I initially tried to go with a dual tank solution like Ofer but in the end I decided not to go with the RV style hot/cold mixing shower fixture. Don't get me wrong, it's a cool solution and I actually ordered the shower fixture from the UK before changing my mind. In the end I decided that I could live with a single tank, that would be heated to a certain temperature and then be allowed to cool off as you showered. It was just simpler to implement and I don't mind the trade off.

Next problem was what to make the tank out of. PVC was cheap and easy but inefficient space-wise in the given area. Metal was expensive and dissipated the heat too quickly. That left plastic. Polypropylene tolerates a higher temperature but why heat it far beyond what you can safely use? Polyethylene is cheaper, and easily supports a 120-125 degree range. When the installation location was measured out (allowing enough room between the tank and the nearby exhaust) the capacity of the tank ended up at 15 gallons. Enough for two efficient showers or one lavish one.

The Joolca Off-grid Plumbing System provides a way to both fill the tank and pressurize the shower. A small electric recirculating pump provides a way to route water from the tank to the heat exchanger and back.

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Pretty early on in my build I decided that having some sort of hot shower capability would be a worthwhile addition. There are lots of different approaches to the problem and I spent a lot of time considering the options. I was initially interested in the simplicity of a rack mounted solar shower that used air from a bicycle pump to pressurize the shower. I figured that I could make it from PVC and paint it black and then tap it for the Schrader valve. The reliance on clear, sunny days with moderate temperatures made that solution too limited. I toyed with the idea of using a sous vide immersion heater to heat the water but it took too much juice to power a high wattage heat source.

Then I saw the video for the Australian Joolca hot shower system. It was so well thought out and cleverly engineered that I immediately started trying to figure out how to incorporate it into rig. The two drawbacks that soon became apparent where the size of the water heater and the fact that it would require propane as its fuel. Under normal circumstances propane would be the perfect solution to the problem but I plan to rely on propane for my stove so I can't afford to be burning it for both cooking and hot water. Fortunately, I saw a video walkthrough of @ofer bruhis rig and everything started to fall in place. His use of a heat exchanger tied into the heating system was beyond brilliant. If you haven't seen his build threads - definitely check them out. The previous owner had deleted the rear heater so it was a simple matter to tap into the coolant loop. Now I had a heat source using fuel that I was going to be burning anyway.

Next problem to be solved was the water tank. My spare tire now resides on the rear bumper so I had space under the rear of the vehicle. I initially tried to go with a dual tank solution like Ofer but in the end I decided not to go with the RV style hot/cold mixing shower fixture. Don't get me wrong, it's a cool solution and I actually ordered the shower fixture from the UK before changing my mind. In the end I decided that I could live with a single tank, that would be heated to a certain temperature and then be allowed to cool off as you showered. It was just simpler to implement and I don't mind the trade off.

Next problem was what to make the tank out of. PVC was cheap and easy but inefficient space-wise in the given area. Metal was expensive and dissipated the heat too quickly. That left plastic. Polypropylene tolerates a higher temperature but why heat it far beyond what you can safely use? Polyethylene is cheaper, and easily supports a 120-125 degree range. When the installation location was measured out (allowing enough room between the tank and the nearby exhaust) the capacity of the tank ended up at 15 gallons. Enough for two efficient showers or one lavish one.

The Joolca Off-grid Plumbing System provides a way to both fill the tank and pressurize the shower. A small electric recirculating pump provides a way to route water from the tank to the heat exchanger and back.

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Nicely done. Thanks for the kind words. Make sure the pump can handle up to 150F and it's self priming. One draw back on my design is that you have to move the knob to 'HOT' on the dash, so in hot days windows are open while we heat the water. 12.5 gallons to 140F takes almost an hour. But then again on hot days you don't really need that hot water. On my troopy build currently am debating to put a hydronic Espar heater for cabin and instant hot water. This way we only have one big stainless tank instead of two. It's always a compromise between comfort, simplicity and cost... :) We have done one on a Sprinter van and also added heated floors. It works amazingly well.

Cheers mate.
 
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Nicely done. Thanks for the kind words. Make sure the pump can handle up to 150F and it's self priming. One draw back on my design is that you have to move the knob to 'HOT' on the dash, so in hot days windows are open while we heat the water. 12.5 gallons to 140F takes almost an hour. But then again on hot days you don't really need that hot water. On my troopy build currently am debating to put a hydronic Espar heater for cabin and instant hot water. This way we only have one big stainless tank instead of two. It's always a compromise between comfort, simplicity and cost... :) We have done one on a Sprinter van and also added heated floors. It works amazingly well.

Cheers mate.
Thanks for the feedback Ofer. The pump is self priming and is rated to 140F. That’s the same as the polyethylene tank so the idea is to never heat the water to more than 125F. The pump pulls water from the tank and sends it through the exchanger so the temperature will be lower than the return water from the heat exchanger. I’ll mount a temperature display for the thermocouple on the dash next to the pump switch and monitor it closely once it gets up above around 115F.
 
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Thanks for the feedback Ofer. The pump is self priming and is rated to 140F. That’s the same as the polyethylene tank so the idea is to never heat the water to more than 125F. The pump pulls water from the tank and sends it through the exchanger so the temperature will be lower than the return water from the heat exchanger. I’ll mount a temperature display for the thermocouple on the dash next to the pump switch and monitor it closely once it gets up above around 115F.
I used an inexpensive thermostat that displays the temp and controls the pump. It has been working for the last 3.5 years and 65K miles without issues. i had to extend the wire for the sensor itself and mounted it on the output of the tank to the heat exchange. Did not wanted to drill extra holes in the tank. Always keep a spare thermostat.
 
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I used an inexpensive thermostat that displays the temp and controls the pump. It has been working for the last 3.5 years and 65K miles without issues. i had to extend the wire for the sensor itself and mounted it on the output of the tank to the heat exchange. Did not wanted to drill extra holes in the tank. Always keep a spare thermostat.
That’s so smart. I was just going to use a sensor and led screen and do it manually. I’m plumbing a short piece of copper pipe between the tank and the pump on the outbound side and attaching the sensor with marine shrink tubing just like you did.
 
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That’s so smart. I was just going to use this and do it manually. I’m plumbing a short piece of copper pipe between the tank and the pump on the outbound side and attaching the sensor with marine shrink tubing just like you did.
The link you sent is broken. 🙁
 
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Joined
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UCTRONICS -30-800 Degree Centigrade Digital Temperature Meter Blue LED Display K-Type Thermocouple Temp Sensor 2-Wires Reverse Polarity Protection with Black Case UCTRONICS -30-800 Degree Centigrade Digital Temperature Meter Blue LED Display K-Type Thermocouple Temp Sensor 2-Wires Reverse Polarity Protection with Black Case: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific - https://a.co/d/4sdCcHr
On our system I just turn the switch on and the thermostat keeps it at the programmed temperature with an ON and OFF settings so it reaches 145F shuts off the pump and when drops to 140F turns it back on. These two are programmable.
 

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